Glenview police board fires cop accused of lying at trial
16-year officer also is facing criminal charges.
By: Kathy Routliffe, Chicago Tribune: August 28th, 2015
The Glenview Board of Fire and Police Commissioners has fired a Glenview police officer charged with lying on the stand during a 2014 drug trial.
On Monday, the board issued an eight-page decision upholding two of three complaints against James Horn by Glenview Police Chief William Fitzpatrick. Horn’s attorney had argued that the former police officer did not intentionally deceive the court with his testimony.
Horn could not be reached for comment. His attorney, Daniel Herbert, issued a statement disputing the board’s “narrow approach” in defining false testimony.
“The board essentially concluded that since Officer Horn gave testimony which was false – a fact we never disputed – he violated department rules and must be fired,” Herbert said in the statement. “Such a narrow interpretation does not account for the significant difference between impeachment, which occurs on a daily basis in our court system, versus intentional and willful false testimony.”
Attorney Jason Guisinger, who represented Fitzpatrick in the hearing, said Wednesday that he was pleased with the decision “not only to uphold the charges against Officer Horn, but to terminate him as well.”
“I believe the results were in line with what we expected,” Guisinger said.
Fitzpatrick could not be reached for comment.
In March 2014, Horn testified in the drug trial of Glenview resident Joseph Sperling and gave testimony that appeared to contradict a Glenview squad car video.
Horn faces criminal charges in the case and commissioners ruled that his testimony hurt the Glenview police department, for which Horn had worked for 16 years.
“It is clear that Officer Horn’s untruthful testimony at the Sperling hearing adversely impacted the Glenview Police Department,” the board wrote.
The commission did not uphold a complaint that Horn had violated Sperling’s Constitutional rights.
“The board obviously felt differently (about that charge),” Guisinger said. “I would not second-guess their opinions.”
Horn is considering appealing the decision, Herbert said.
“Officer Horn was certainly impeached, but we argued that the chief was required to prove that his testimony was intentionally and willfully given to deceive,” he said.
Horn has 35 days from the date the decision is served to him to appeal the decision to Cook County Circuit Court, said Lynne Stiefel, Glenview spokeswoman.
The commission’s ruling came less than a month after the board held a hearing on the matter in Glenview.
The decision upheld two of the three accusations Fitzpatrick levied against Horn in a June 26 complaint.
In that complaint, Fitzpatrick said Horn made false or untrue statements in a criminal proceeding, that he violated Sperling’s constitutional rights and that he conducted himself in a manner unbecoming of a Glenview police officer.
Commission Chairman Gino L. DiVito and Commissioners James Hogan and Michael Cho upheld the first and third charges.
In its decision, the board pointed out that Horn himself testified during his disciplinary hearing “that his testimony at the Sperling [trial] should have been that he did not recall the specific facts of the traffic stop” and “that he should have testified in a different manner.”
Despite rejecting Fitzpatrick’s charge that Horn violated Sperling’s constitutional rights when he allegedly lied on the stand, the board emphasized the potentially dangerous results experienced by victims of false testimony.
“Often a person’s liberty, and even his life, is at stake based on the outcome of a trial in which an officer testifies,” the board wrote. “Telling the truth is a minimum expectation – indeed an essential requirement – for a police officer, and that is especially so when testimony is given under oath.”
Fitzpatrick sought to fire Horn after Cook County State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez’s office charged Horn and three Chicago police officers with felony perjury.
Sperling was arrested in June 2013 in Glenview by the Chicago officers after their department conducted surveillance on him.
In his 2014 trial, Sperling’s defense attorney introduced video from a Glenview squad car after Horn and the Chicago officers testified.
The video appeared to show one Chicago officer opening Sperling’s car door, getting him out and immediately handcuffing him. That contradicted Horn’s and other officers’ testimony that he was handcuffed only after he’d been asked for his license and after the officers smelled marijuana in his car, searched the car, and then found a backpack containing roughly a pound of marijuana.
After seeing the video, Judge Catherine Haberkorn quashed the search and arrest evidence, leading the prosecution to drop the charges against Sperling.
Alvarez’s office announced the perjury charges in July. In addition to Horn, Chicago police Sgt. James Padar and Chicago police officers William Pruente and Vince Morgan also were charged. Horn, who had been on paid leave since April 9, 2014, was put on unpaid leave on July 2.
The Glenview board disagreed with arguments by Herbert that Fitzpatrick needed to prove Horn’s testimony was either perjury or willful and rejected as “meritless” Horn’s defense that he wasn’t properly prepared by the Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office and didn’t know the video existed.